I’ve just had a good start to the week listening to the Virtual Enterprise 2.0 Conference presentation regarding Booz Allen Hamilton’s internal collaboration tool, hello.bah.com. The one thing that struck me was the conversation around how to measure its value. Though they demonstrated this through the significant reduction in time it took to find the right people for a project, especially useful for a company with a lot of off-site employees as community manager Megan Murray said, the need to prove ROI is ongoing.
To paraphrase the discussion, the metric for value was arrived at as a result of a benchmarking as a consulting firm the challenge was to see how long it tool to find the right people to staff a project. Comparing the E2.o tool against Outlook and the phone it took an average of 1.5 hours less time to find individuals you required for a specific project. So as senior associate Walton Smith said that over 23k people you quickly see a positive return; but he added he was still looking for a great answer to the question of proving ROI.
I’m sure the 2.0 Adoption Council has plenty of possible answers to that question. I have a few ideas of my own too which I shared with the good folks at Webjam the other day. I was thinking of Vanessa DiMauro of Leader Networks White Paper (pdf) on the subject of creating professional peer-to-peer communities and measuring usage by the majority of ‘readers’ as opposed to active ‘contributors’. The point being that enabling this method to measure E2.0 could be part of the answer, IMHO.
In the 90s, a colleague and I
did a really interesting study3 to answer the research
question “What do people, who don’t actively post
in an online community, do with
the information in the commu-
nity?” We so commonly use the
term “lurker,” which has nega-
tive connotations. But if you
look at the statistics of online
community behaviors, only one
to four percent of all community
participants actually post a mes-
sage, and only about 20 to 30
percent of all private community members make
themselves visible by taking a poll, posting a mes-
sage, being interviewed, or showing some sign of
active presence, so that leaves a really large percent-
age of people who repeatedly visit. They have use
patterns that are sustained and predictable. What the
heck are they doing, and why do they keep coming
So my colleague Gloria Jacobs and I decided to
study what people do who aren’t actively and visibly
participating. Are they just reading and lurking, as
that negative word connotes? What are they doing with
their repeated logons?
What we found was a really robust usage of the
information and connections that people make in
professional online communities, even if they never
make themselves visible. They actually have a ten-
dency to use the information that they learn in their
real life, in some cases more actively than the active
posters or participants.
We were able to track behaviors such as printing
out information or emailing it to others (when it was
appropriate); using information in meetings; con-
necting with colleagues or people that they met in
the online community via phone or at conferences or
through email. So the silent readers are very active
members of the community. They just make deci-
sions not to make themselves visible in the perma-
nent online space.
That was a really interesting finding for us, be-
cause it rounded out the great question “Why are
these people coming if they’re
not doing anything?” But they
are. They are choosing to mani-
fest their connections in the real
world, in the public-facing world just not online.
Download the presentation slides (pdf, 3mb) here: The Evolution of Hello.bah.com